Beijing, China – China reached zero growth of new local infections on March 19, including in the epicenter of Wuhan, for the first time since the start of the pandemic – although cases from abroad continued to rise, with 34 infected detected in the last 24 hours.
Two days after the arrival of spring, Wuhan, the ground zero of COVID-19 – with 2,222 cases still active- did not register any new infected for the first time since the virus began to spread last December among its 11 million inhabitants and later throughout the world.
Most of the 34 cases from abroad – compared to twelve the day before – were detected in travelers from the United Kingdom and Spain, according to the National Health Commission, which announced that 21 of them were discovered in Beijing, which is a new record for the capital.
BEIJING HARDENS THE QUARANTINE TO THOSE WHO ARRIVE FROM OUTSIDE
In Beijing, quarantine measures for all travelers arriving in the city, Chinese or foreigners, have been extreme, since last Monday they must undergo a mandatory quarantine in hotels specially designated for this, with few exceptions.
Only those over 70, pregnant women and people living alone, as well as those whose illness prevents them from doing so in a hotel, will be able to carry out the 14-day quarantine at home.
And coinciding with the record of new “imported” cases in the capital, the municipal authorities announced today that the mandatory quarantine in hotels will also be extended to people living alone, while the rest of the exceptions will have to request authorization in advance from their neighborhood community to be able to do go back home.
Eight new deaths were announced on Thursday, all of them in the province of Hubei. This data is also one of the lowest numbers of deaths recorded for weeks in the region.
Airports such as that of Beijing have provided a special area for international flights to carry out health checks on all travelers who disembark from planes.
Passengers on international flights arriving in the capital these days told EFE that all travelers are taken by bus to a convention center in the Shunyi district, where it is decided whether they can quarantine at home or are given the choice of one of the designated hotels, where they must bear all expenses.
Other large cities in the country, such as Guangzhou, Shanghai or Chongqing, which also receive many cases from abroad, are applying similar measures, although they are limited to travelers from the countries most affected by the pandemic, such as Iran, South Korea, Italy and Spain.
SCIENTISTS WEIGH IN ON POSSIBLE VIRUS RETURN
And as the country reaches zero local growth, but remains concerned about “imported” cases, some Chinese scientists toned down fears today that the disease may become seasonal or that the coronavirus may return even more aggressively next winter.
Deputy director of the Infectious Diseases department at Beijing Medical College Hospital, Cao Wei, said a second outbreak of the coronavirus in China “would not be a major concern.”
Cao said that while China needs an additional month to fully assess the situation, current prevention and control measures should be enough to end the epidemic nationwide.
Other experts pointed out that China should be able to end the new coronavirus just as it ended with Acute and Severe Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, which did not regrow or become seasonal.
The deputy director of the Chinese Institute of Cell Biology, Gao Zhengliang, assured that the country has taken “99 of the 100 steps” necessary to defeat the virus, although he warned that if global infections multiply without control, the situation could change.
“Restrictive measures must continue, the coronavirus cannot be allowed to live with humans like the flu virus does,” he told the official Youth Daily newspaper.
WUHAN ISOLATION COULD BE LIFTED IN EARLY APRIL
For his part, the director of the main Chinese laboratory for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Infectious Diseases, Li Lanjuan, estimated that the trend of zero growth for new infections as seen now in Wuhan won’t be consolidated until the end of March.
“If there are no new cases of coronavirus in Wuhan for 14 days in a row, we believe we will then be able to gradually lift the quarantine of the city,” the epidemiologist told the official China Daily.
In any case, he warned that strict control and prevention measures will still be needed to prevent a possible regrowth.
China has registered 80,928 confirmed cases of coronavirus to date, of which 3,245 have died, while 70,420 people have been discharged.